I might be a little late, but I’m saying it anyway: Happy New Year! Is the world in a good place? No. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own little world a better place, a happier place, with the help of a few healthy lifestyle habits. I like to think of my life in terms of a new book, and in front of me today sits a book with blank pages, twelve new chapters to be written. How you approach the next twelve months ahead has a lot to do with how your story develops. I have a few healthy lifestyle habits (not resolutions) that help me move forward and I’ll share those with you today. How will you move forward in a new year? What will you write in your book in 2021?
Moving Forward in a Healthy Way
Whatever this year brings, I want to move forward in my best shape possible. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t go crazy when it comes to food and fitness. I believe balance is key in all things, and this is no exception. What that balance is will be different for everyone, and maybe what works for me won’t work for you, but I’ll share my three key beliefs and strategies with you and maybe it will give you a jumping off point to create your own.
Healthy Lifestyle Habit #1: The Old 80/20 Rule
I believe in eating well: I buy local produce from local farmers whenever possible, try to eat plenty of whole foods and put fruits and vegetables on my plate at every meal, and I follow a gluten-free diet. But not all the time. I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work for me. But what does work for me is allowing myself to break those rules and indulge my cravings once or twice a week. I find that’s enough to keep me happy and I’m able to get right back on track after any indulgence. In our house, that’s usually Friday and/or Saturday dinners. We have what we call ‘restaurant night’ – we pick a meal that we would have ordered from a restaurant and I make it at home (and yes, occasionally we actually order our meal from a restaurant). The key here is moderation.
Along with eating well, I also believe exercise is important for both our physical and mental health. It took me a long time to fall in love with exercise, and I’ve tried a lot of different things to keep me moving, but running, walking/hiking, Pilates, and strength training have become my favourites. If I don’t exercise, I hit a slump and my mood deteriorates (making it even harder to get back on track). Now, I don’t spend hours on end at the gym or pounding the pavement, but I do try to fit in at least four good workout sessions each week, mixing it up so it’s never the same routine (routine and boredom are workout killers for me).
I also find having a goal or something to work toward makes me want to get up and exercise. Last year was tough, but I found a few virtual runs that helped keep me going. This year, I’ve joined a 1500 mile walking challenge. Again, it’s about finding what works for you.
Healthy Lifestyle Habit #2: Eat a Rainbow
There are so many fad foods and fad diets out there and I’ve tried many of them in the past. All with failure. Now I know better. Food is nutrition and every food in every colour of the rainbow has something different and unique to offer. Mix it up. Eat all of them. Don’t stick to one food or avoid one food group. Eat a variety and eat a rainbow. Maybe it’s about having that deli sandwich if you want, but eating a mixed salad with it (or first, so you eat less of the sandwich). Munch on a bowl of brightly coloured berries, drink your veggies in a smoothie…do whatever works for you, but eat a variety.
And no, your diet won’t change overnight. Give yourself time. Start with small changes. Remember, you’ve got 12 chapters to write, and you will fill them one word at a time. Check out Canada’s Food Guide for a good place to start.
Healthy Habit #3: Meal Prep, Meal Prep, Meal Prep
This is a big one for me and my family. I have two teenage girls, and if it’s not ready for them or if it involves too many steps to get it from the fridge or cupboard to their plate, forget it. That’s when they reach for chips or pre-packaged foods to make meals quick and easy. I also have a busy schedule, working and going to school, and every minute I can save in a day is a huge bonus.
Develop a Routine
It’s taken some time, but I’ve settled into a meal prep groove over time:
- Mondays – My farm order opens up the online catalogue and I’m able to see what I can order for my Saturday pickup. That’s when I do my meal planning. I figure out what we’ll be eating the following week. It’s also when I place an online grocery order for the items I may need for our meals that I can’t get sourced from the farm (months ago, this would have meant actually going grocery shopping, but now I do it all online with a curbside pickup).
- Wednesday – I pick up my online curbside grocery order.
- Saturdays – We pick up our weekly grocery order from a local farm. Any meat we order typically comes frozen, so I set out and thaw anything I need for food prep for the week.
- Sundays – That’s our food prep day. On these days I usually have dinner cooking in the slow cooker so I don’t feel like I’m spending the entire day in the kitchen.
Food prep doesn’t have to be hard and lengthy. I limit myself to two hours in the kitchen. My typical prep includes easy-to-grab snacks for the kids (muffins, energy balls, protein cereal bars, quinoa or egg bites, etc.), a soup and/or a stock of some kind, a salad (quinoa, chickpea, vegetable or rice based), some kind of dip, and chop fruits and vegetables for easy snacking.
I have a number of posts on meal prep you can review that may help you find your own groove:
- Salads: Not Just for Summer
- Back-to-School and Back to Meal Prep
- Farm Fresh Groceries & Meal Prep
- Food Prep & Social Distancing
- Meal Prep Sundays
- Egg Bites: Ready for Exam Week
So that’s it. Three simple healthy lifestyle habits that help keep me on track. If I follow these, I know I can face whatever 2021 brings with my best foot forward. Now grab your pen, write down a few healthy habits you think will help you, and let’s start writing those twelve new chapters together.